What is the charge of Driving with a Measurable Controlled Substance in Utah:
Driving with a Measurable Controlled Substance, also known as “Metabolite DUI,” is a Misdemeanor B charge in Utah, similar to a traditional DUI. It’s called “Metabolite DUI” because the statute doesn’t require the actual controlled substance in your body. You can still be found guilty just for having the “metabolite” in your body, which is like the chemical leftovers which show that your body processed a controlled substance recently.
So if you’re pulled over and the police discover that you’ve recently smoked marijuana, for instance, there are two possibilities: the police can charge you with a regular Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charge if they believe that the marijuana impairs your ability to drive a car, OR the police can charge you with Driving with a Measurable Controlled Substance (Metabolite DUI) just for having the forbidden substance in your body while driving. In other words, under Metabolite DUI, you don’t have to be impaired or under the influence to be charged.
What if you smoked “Legally” in California, Oregon, or Colorado:
It happens with disturbing frequency, and it goes like this: someone gets pulled over while travelling in Utah. When the trooper sees the driver’s license from Colorado or California, his first question is often, “Hey, you’re from California, do you have one of those medical marijuana cards?”
Driver: “Why yes officer, I do.”
Trooper: “That’s great. When was the last time you smoked?”
Driver: “I smoked yesterday, before leaving L.A.. It helps me sleep.”
Trooper: “Step out of the car. You’re under arrest for Driving with a Measurable Controlled Substance.”
Under Utah’s DUI Metabolite statute, that’s all it takes. If you smoked yesterday, you very likely have either the actual substance or the metabolite in your body still, so if you’re driving in Utah, that’s probable cause to arrest you (and you’ll likely get a chemical test too). However, just because you were arrested in this situation doesn’t mean you’ll be found guilty! With the rapidly changing marijuana laws surrounding Utah, the Driving with a Measurable Controlled Substance charge is being challenged in several ways. Also, as with any traffic stop and subsequent arrest, there are often ways to challenge the charge based on 4th and 5th Amendment violations. Contract me and we can discuss your case without pressure or obligation.
How long does a drug metabolite stays in your body:
There is really no hard and fast answer, because it depends on which drug and whose body. It also depends on how frequently you use the drug. Sources I have consulted show that metabolite from cocaine, amphetamines, and opiates typically range from a day or two up to a week, but marijuana tends to be one of the longest to stick around, with detection times ranging up to several weeks. (See, e.g. Drug Court Practitioner Fact Sheet, which offers a good review of the research, but is a few years old now).
What are the Penalties for Driving with a Measurable Controlled Substance:
Metabolite DUI is a misdemeanor B, so the possible penalties go up to 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine. Of course, for a first offense, it’s unlikely that a judge would impose anything near the maximum (for the jail time, at least), but a Metabolite DUI charge is nothing to be taken lightly, especially because a conviction results in many collateral consequences, such as a mandatory driver’s license suspension, supervised probation, and a criminal record.
What to do if you’ve been charged with Driving with a Measurable Controlled Substance:
This charge almost always involves a traffic stop, police questioning, a search, and an arrest, so there are often many complicated areas of constitutional law at play: the 4th Amendment restriction on unreasonable searches and seizures, the 5th Amendment restriction on forced testimony, the Miranda Warnings. There’s also complex statutory law involved: controlled-substance schedules, sentence-enhancements, driver’s license revocations. For these reasons, I highly recommend you get in touch with a good, local criminal defense lawyer. You can contact my firm, Dain Smoland, Attorney at Law PLLC, by filling out the short form on this page, using the contact page, or calling (801) 214-8389. If you decide to hire me to represent you in court, my fees typically range between $1500 and $3000, depending on the details of the case.
The statute itself:
Here’s some key language from Utah’s “Metabolite DUI” Statute, 41-6a-517:
(2) In cases not amounting to a violation of Section 41-6a-502 [this is the regular DUI statute] a person may not operate or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle within this state if the person has any measurable controlled substance or metabolite of a controlled substance in the person’s body.
(3) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the controlled substance was:
(a) involuntarily ingested by the accused;
(b) prescribed by a practitioner for use by the accused; or
(c) otherwise legally ingested.
(4) (a) A person convicted of a violation of Subsection (2) is guilty of a class B misdemeanor.
(b) A person who violates this section is subject to conviction and sentencing under both this section and any applicable offense under Section 58-37-8.
(5) A peace officer may, without a warrant, arrest a person for a violation of this section when the officer has probable cause to believe the violation has occurred, although not in the officer’s presence, and if the officer has probable cause to believe that the violation was committed by the person.
You can read the whole thing here.